What’s the Oklahoma City Thunder’s best lineup?

What’s the Oklahoma City Thunder’s best lineup?

Coach Mark Daigneault has used 10 lineups that have played at least 35 minutes together this season. Here is how they rank

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Mar 6, 2024, 11:09am CST

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Mar 6, 2024, 11:09am CST

Mark Daigneault is not afraid to try new things. For instance, his lineup experimentation is never-ending.

And here’s the proof. A lineup with Vasilijie Micic, who played just 30 games and 120 minutes total before being traded to Charlotte two weeks ago, has been the third most-used five-man lineup all season for the Thunder.

Daigneault has used just 10 lineups all season that have played at least 35 minutes together and just five five-man lineups that have played at least 50 minutes together.

Here are the net ratings for each of the 10 most-used lineups. Net rating is the point differential, pro-rated to 100 possessions:

10. Arkansas lineup: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cason Wallace, Arkansas Williams, Isaiah Joe and Aaron Wiggins, with a -8.8 rating over 35 minutes. By far the worst lineup of the top 10, it’s not a good endorsement of Williams. This is his most common lineup.

9. Wallace instead of Santa Clara: The starting lineup, only with Cason Wallace replacing Santa Clara Williams, with a -1.5 rating over 54 minutes. So Wallace joins SGA, Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren and Luguentz Dort in this lineup. The Thunder tends to do better when Santa Clara is on the court.

8. Missing Dort & SGA: Wallace, Wiggins, Holmgren, Santa Clara and Giddey, with a +0.8 rating over 48 minutes. An interesting collection of players. Basically the starting lineup without SGA and Dort. SGA and Dort tend to play a lot of minutes together, probably because when Dort’s on the court, it provides Gilgeous-Alexander some defensive relief.

7. Starting lineup: Dort, Giddey, Holmgren, Santa Clara and SGA, with a net rating of +5.6 over 658 minutes. Here’s the thing to remember. The more minutes, the more solid the net rating. A unit with 35 minutes together could rise or fall quickly, depending on a solitary big run. But a starting lineup with a +5.6 rating is very good. Only three teams have a net rating better than +5.6 — Boston’s 11.4, OKC’s 7.6, Minnesota’s 6.8.

6. SGA & bench: SGA playing with a bench unit of Joe, Kenrich Williams, Wiggins and Wallace, with a net rating of +13.1, over 37 minutes. The Thunder bench players have been quite productive all season, and this is a good indication of their success.

5. Mister Micic: Here comes Micic. He’s with Wallace, Wiggins, Holmgren and Santa Clara, with a net rating of +15.7 over 62 minutes. Interesting lineup, and it never will be repeated, with Micic now in Charlotte.

4. Wallace replacing Dort: The starting lineup except Wallace replacing Dort, with a net rating of +18.3 over 52 minutes. This is an excellent rating, basically winning a 48-minute game by 18 points, and one of the most seamless substitutions, with Wallace being a young facsimile of Dort, with not quite the refined defense.

3. Joe replacing Giddey: The starting lineup, only with Joe replacing Giddey. It’s the people’s choice of lineups, and the numbers bear it out — +19.3 over 91 minutes. That’s a lot of minutes, so the dominance is real. If Daigneault doesn’t want to play this lineup, get to it more quickly, please.

2. Small-ball lineup: Kenrich Williams playing center, alongside SGA, Santa Clara, Joe and Wallace. It’s been quite effective, with a net rating of +39.1 over 47 minutes.

1. No Santa Clara: It makes no sense, but the Thunder’s best net-rating lineup with substantial time together is the starters only with Joe replacing Santa Clara. It has a net rating of +55.1, over 38 minutes.

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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